I am afraid of three very silly things that are completely illogical …

Math, spiders and clowns. Math is confusing, spiders are killers and clowns eat people. These are scientific facts.

But beyond the laughable fears that each of us have should be a very real and horrifying fear every pastor, youth minister, missionary, campus pastor, worship leader, wife and husband and parent, should always be mindful and fearful of …

… the fear of being disqualified.

If you are not daily aware of this deadly threat, then according to the book of Proverbs, you are a fool. If you don’t prepare and plan and plot the path you will walk to avoid being disqualified, then you will eventually do something that will indeed make you unfit for the work of ministry. If this sounds harsh, then I have communicated well my intention.

Consider this short passage from Paul the Apostle and hear the urgency in these words …

“Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”1 Corinthians 9:26-27

Paul’s fear was that because of a lack of focus and self-discipline . .

… he might fall into sin that would make him unfit for ministry. He lived daily with the reality that he could do certain things that would disqualify him from preaching the Gospel, things that would cause those he preached to to doubt him, distrust him or scorn him.

He had labored for many years to gain a reputation and testimony as an ambassador of Jesus Christ and he lived with the constant understanding that he could literally throw all of that away in a split second of sin or stupidity.

So can you and so can I.

It takes a moment of unbridled passion to destroy a marriage. It takes five minutes online to begin an addiction that will crush your congregation when it comes out (and it will come out). Just a few words spoken in anger or rage and your entire life’s work in ministry is undone.

And the reality I live with is that after 26 years in ministry and on the stage, I could just as easily disqualify myself by burning myself out, ruining my health or having a stress induced heart attack before I even hit my most effective and fruitful years for the Gospel. 

If I am dead at 45 then I am no good to anyone on earth. And if you have an affair at 60, no one will remember the great church you built. Your legacy will simply be that you blew it. You failed. Many great men of God end up nothing more than footnotes in conversations years after they stepped out of bounds and were disqualified.

Of course the grace of God covers a multitude of sins. But there is no guarantee from the New Testament that once a minister is disqualified that they can automatically be restored to serve in the same capacity. The best idea is to stay in bounds. 

Here, briefly, is how we avoid being disqualified:

  • Do not let anything come between you and your daily time with Jesus Christ
  • Maintain a vibrant life of private worship, prayer and meditation on His word
  • Have real accountability with people who are not impressed with you, not just “yes” men
  • Spend unhurried, uncluttered time with your wife and your children
  • Slow down, say no, and create margin in your life for rest, reflection and fun

If being disqualified is not your greatest fear, then I urge you to re-think what you are most afraid of. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, may you and I walk in humility, dependence, accountability and self-discipline so that we may not be disqualified from our calling.

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